Saturday, September 6, 2014

501. High School (1969)

Running Time: 75 minutes
Directed By: Frederick Wiseman
Written By: Frederick Wiseman


I'm really in no mood to be writing reviews tonight, as I put in a full day today and am dog tired. However, seeing as how I watched this movie two nights ago, I figured I'd better get my rear in here and get er' done. I honestly didn't plan the coincidence of watching this during back to school week. I just needed something to fill the gap while waiting on Fassbinder movies to get to me, so I plugged this in. Plus it was short and I was tired that night too...

I honestly could've watched an entire doc about this guy. What a character!

It's a documentary, so there's really not a lot to sum up - synopsis wise. Basically Wiseman and his crew went to Northeast High School in Philadelphia, PA (my home state) and shot for five weeks to show a portrait of the American educational system and more importantly the ones running these joints. Of course, it wasn't difficult for me to relate to this picture, as I was an American high schooler myself once and not much changed between 1968 and 1999 (the year I began as a high school freshman). I have to be honest, the whole hypocritical element from the adults in this picture really went over my head. It wasn't until I read THE BOOK entry that I really realized what awful people some of these teachers were. The disciplinarian who tells the student that it's the right thing to do to take punishment for something you're innocent of! The gynecologist who welcomes applause when he announces to the students that "he gets paid" to put his fingers in female vaginas! The hippy literature teacher who puts on Paul Simon seemingly for her own personal pleasure and to shill their latest record, rather than to teach a lesson! Back to the disciplinarian and how he hands out a suspension for someone claiming to have a doctor's note excusing them from gym class. WOW! How did all of that go over my head? Is it possible that the teachers were just as clueless and hypocritical back when I was banging and that for me, it was all sort of normal. I've come to expect this type of behavior from the ones placed into power positions and therefore, I had to have it specifically pointed out to me via THE BOOK that, yes, there was definitely some shady behavior on display.

I really did like this doc though. It was easy to watch and made seventy five minutes feel like ten. If anything, this BOOK has really helped me to come to appreciate documentary filmmaking, going back as far as Nanook of the North, one of the first movies I saw from THE BOOK and one of the first ones I gave a '10/10' to. There was something about these characters that you just couldn't create; it was reality on display and it makes you realize why there was such a reality TV movement so many years ago that still carries on today. Of course, the reality TV that we watch is all semi to fully scripted, but you know what I'm saying. There's something fascinating about watching real life unfold and especially if there's a story and a message behind it. This movie was really easy to watch and each time the segment changed, you wondered what sort of conflict the camera was going to zoom in on next. It was all so intriguing, fascinating and I thought this was top notch documentary filmmaking.

RATING: 8.5/10  Great stuff here and I'll be happy to include this one on my next TOP 20 list...if there's room. Fassbinder Week contines there!


September 6, 2014  10:47pm


  1. I keep coming back to this one each morning, trying to think of something intelligent to add.. and failing.
    Yes, mostly in agreement.. good observational documentary making that excels in not labouring the point it makes..
    (Hey, my spell check allowed 'labouring'.. perhaps I've taught it English at last)

    1. Always good to agree Ray! Thanks for stopping by, as always!


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